POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County man is feeling like the unluckiest guy in his neighborhood.
His home was the only one destroyed by a tornado that seemed to target him on Gibson Shores Drive in north Lakeland.
“I walked in the house and all of a sudden, the house got hit by a tornado,” said Scott Leavitt, still in disbelief.
Leavitt hadn’t heard much about storms headed his way Wednesday evening. After he got home, he went to take his flag down, noting the high winds.
When it got too windy, Leavitt ran inside.
“As soon as I shut the kitchen door, it just sounded like a train was coming through,” he remembered. “Everything just started shaking. My ears were popping like crazy, I guess from pressure or something. And when I got maybe halfway through the living room, everything behind me was disappearing.”
Just like that, it was over.
His cat, Ash, hasn’t been seen since Thursday morning. His beloved Harley Davidson motorcycle and ‘67 Mustang sit under debris. He’s unsure about their fate.
“I’m in shock. I look at my vehicles and I look at the house and it’s just crazy. I know it can be replaced but still, you work your tail off all your life and it’s gone within a couple of seconds,” he said.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado hit the neighborhood just north of Lake Gibson at 5:15 p.m. after traveling 13 miles from just north of Plant City.
Wind speeds peaked at 110 miles per hour.
“The one that we’re in front of now is the only one I’m aware of that I would consider destroyed, based on the amount of structural damage,” said Paul Womble, Polk County’s emergency management director, while standing in front of Leavitt’s home. “The tornado hit just a very small area, luckily.”
While Leavitt’s was the only home destroyed, other homes were damaged in the area.
“We lost a shed in the backyard and a lean-to that was totally lifted up, flooring and all, and it was anchored down. It went over the power lines and was strewn across the backyards of the two houses in back of us,” said Luke Dickerson.
Dickerson’s daughter and grandchildren were home. They hid in the bathroom, terrified.
“She heard what sounded like the infamous freight train. She had never been in something like that before. It was very loud and she heard things hitting the window, just hundreds and thousands of taps and branches and she heard trees falling and metal twisting,” he said.
A large tree toppled over, narrowly missing a home on Daughtery Road.
Nobody was hurt.
“It was unreal. It was unreal. Still gives me chill bumps every time I think about it,” said Leavitt.
That area is a five minute drive from Gibson Shores Drive.